Mobile real estate applications company Smarter Agent has filed a federal class-action lawsuit alleging patent infringement by major real estate companies including Move, Zillow and Trulia, among others.
In the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, Smarter Agent alleges that the companies named in the suit violated three of its technology patents, all of which allow users to access real estate information via a mobile device. The suit alleges infringement by "making, using, importing, providing, offering to sell, and selling (directly or through intermediaries), infringing products and/or services."
The suit names the following companies as defendants: Boopsie Inc., Classified Ventures LLC, HotPads Inc., IDX Inc., Move Inc. and subsidiary RealSelect Inc., Multifamily Technology Solutions Inc. (owner of MyNewPlace.com), Primedia Inc. and subsidiary Consumer Source Inc., TRSoft Inc. (owner of PlanetRE.com), Trulia Inc., Zillow Inc. and ZipRealty Inc. The complaint was filed March 26.
"Smarter Agent has been operating and innovating in the mobile space for a decade. We believe our innovations, protected by our patents, are being infringed upon. We have an obligation to our shareholders to protect our intellectual property. We intend to vigorously protect our intellectual property," said Shelly Schwartz, Smarter Agent’s spokesperson.
According to the complaint, Smarter Agent seeks injunctive relief — to stop the companies from their alleged continued infringement — and monetary damages. The complaint demands a jury trial.
Smarter Agent alleges that the companies named in the lawsuit "derive revenue from their infringing products and services by, for example, selling advertisements displayed via their infringing products and services and/or receiving compensation for lead generation from their infringing products and services and/or selling or licensing the use of their infringing products and services."
Move, Trulia, Classified Ventures, Boopsie, HotPads, and Primedia declined to comment.
"We intend to vigorously defend against this lawsuit and do not believe that any of our mobile technology infringes on any patent. It is unfortunate that lawsuits of this nature seek to limit companies’ opportunity to innovate, often at the expense of consumers," said Samantha Harnett, ZipRealty’s vice president, general counsel and secretary. …CONTINUED
And Katie Curnutte, a Zillow spokeswoman, said in a statement, "We have reviewed the suit, and intend to fight the case vigorously. Beyond that, we cannot comment on ongoing litigation."
MyNewPlace.com and PlanetRE.com did not respond to requests for comment.
In May 2002, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Smarter Agent a patent titled "Global positioning-based real estate database access device and method."
In December of that same year, the company got a patent for a "Position-based information access device and method." A few years later, in July 2006, the company obtained another patent, this time for a "Position-based information access device and method of searching."
The Camden, N.J.-based company claims to be the first to offer downloadable real estate applications on all major carriers for all U.S. cell phones. Real estate agents can self-brand its Homes For Sale application, which uses Global Positioning System technology to detect a user’s location and allows the user to search and filter nearby homes.
"We invented the mobile GPS real estate search category. We received our first patent in 2000 and our fifth patent in 2009. We expect several more of our patents will be granted as we invent more cool mobile tools," the company’s Web site states.
In March 2007, Smarter Agent filed a lawsuit against uLocate Communications Inc., also for patent infringement. That case was voluntarily dismissed less than a month later.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor.